I am interested in buying some pedals I can clip into for my bike. I currently ride a mountain bike/hybrid but I ma looking to get a road bike next year some time.

What are the differences between road pedals and mountain bike pedals? Are road pedals suitable for my hybrid/MTB if I am only riding on roads?

  • The other pedal that nobody's mentioned is the Speedplay (speedplay.com). I haven't used them and they seem to be expensive, but I saw a number of TDF riders using them, so that can't be all bad.
    – Mac
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 4:32
  • I have taken to MTB shoes and pedals from my earlier days of toe clips as a racing cyclist. I can't find any possible reason to change to road pedals and shoes and regularly do 100 milers on my MTB pedals. The shoes I use, Spiuk's, are lighter and with the carbon sole are as stiff as any road shoe and my titanium SPD cleats are now 10 years old and still as new. Its a no brainer, its MTB pedals and shoes for me and when I race, I don't get any funny looks and I am winning races with my setup.
    – user17306
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 10:24

4 Answers 4


There are differences of opinion regarding what you are asking here. Some people are insistent that a road bike has to have proper road pedals, others think that for non-competitive riding over short distances the mountain bike style pedal is just fine, so long as you don't go all day in them and expect to win the Tour de France in them.

Let's look at the difference in shoes first. Road shoes have a huge cleat on the bottom of them that makes them not suitable for walking in off the bike. Meanwhile, mountain bike cleats are embedded in the sole and you can walk all day in shoes with them, just so long as you avoid polished wood floors that don't need to be scratched.

Cycling shoes have an upper and a sole. If you look at the market leading Sidi shoes the same uppers are available on both the mountain and the road versions. The soles are also remarkably similar, or at least the upper part of the sole. They have different rubber attached to the sole and different holes in them for the respective cleats.

Because of the different soles, with more rubber on the mountain variant, the best option for town riding is to get the mountain shoe. This is because you can ride them quite easily without being fully clipped in. With road soles this is not so easy to do, particularly in the wet, as you have to clip in properly before putting in any power strokes to get across that junction. They are also one-sided so you need to be adept to get into them. By contrast, you don't have to clip in with mountain bike pedals at all (if using Time Atac) and the cleat is always there for you as they have the cleat on both sides.

For where you are now, consider getting the mountain shoes, they have the same uppers and stiffness to the sole, if you pay for it (e.g. Sidi). You can also get more pliant shoes such as the Shimano affordable models that are stiff but not super-stiff. These can also be more presentable off-bike.

Remember that whatever pedal system you use the pedal, big or small still attaches to the same size hole in the chainset. Shoe stiffness with glass fibre or carbon fibre is huge so the platform size is not the be-all-and-end-all.

There is another choice to be made with the actual pedals. Shimano are the market leader with their SPD system, this has been earned not because it is a better pedal system. The other pedal system to look at is the Time 'Atac' range. This uses a smarter spring system that allows your feet to 'float' a lot more naturally. The 'Atac' pedal system is patent protected, the designer was the guy that designed the original road 'Look' pedal cleat system and I think it has a lot more going for it than the clunkier Shimano efforts.

Have a good look online for opinions regarding pedal choice/reliability and remember that most people defend their pedal system choice less than objectively. Generally shops will only stock the Shimano pedals or the 'Crank Bros' pedals and people that buy these will swear they have the best system.

  • +1 Road pedals are so much harder to get your foot into and out of. I prefer MTB pedals for almost all circumstances.
    – Mac
    Commented Aug 14, 2011 at 23:17
  • They're harder to get your foot in and out of, but provide far superior performance. I use Speedplays and there's no way I would consider putting MTB pedals on a road bike, even a commuter. Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 1:15

You can ride all day with, say, Shimano SPD mountain pedals and medium-priced compatible shoes. It is true, though, that, towards the end of that day, you will experience some discomfort from the narrow pedal and the way it effectively traps your foot in the shoe (leading to a "hot foot" sensation), vs the wider platform of a road pedal. Probably stiffer shoes will moderate this somewhat, but at the expense of being less "walkable".

Still, for me "mountain" pedals are the way to go - inexpensive, double-sided (easy to clip into), walkable shoes, et al. But I'm nowhere near a competitive rider, and have no desire to be.


+1 on mathews comprehensive answer.

There are definitely more shoe options if you go with "mountain type" systems.

However, a "competition grade" mountain shoe with a very rigid sole (like the Sidi dominator) will give you the benefits of a road system with the versatility of mountain stuff.

I would seriously have trouble believing anyone who said that good rigid mountain shoes with a mountain pedals could put a road rider at any kind of disadvantage.

  • 1
    I have heard heat is a problem going the mtb shoe route on a sportive or race event. I don't know it myself, but I have done 100 miles in the pedals without stopping in mtb shoes and not had a heat build up problem so what would I know! Commented Aug 14, 2011 at 19:13

Road cleats on a MTB on the road are totally fine. The bike is irrelevant, its the conditions that matter.

Road cleats on a MTB off road are less fun. They have poor grip so if you have to put a foot down for any reason, that foot may skate away over rocks, or catch in vegetation, or generally not help you.

Conversely, MTB cleats on a MTB off road is ideal, with lots of foot tread to work better as a shoe.

MTB cleats on a road bike make a lot of sense too - they're smaller, lighter and therefore more aero. Often coming as double sided pedals means they're easier to get in at the green light. The only downside in pure racing terms is a bit more "flex" in the shoe sole so not quite as much power transferred. But since they're more like sneakers, the foot comfort is increased compared to road shoes, and you'll be able to pedal for longer.

In my experience, ride what you have.

Shoe/foot fit and comfort are more important than cleat style.

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